Jenny was sitting in the front seat of her father’s old green pickup. With the smell of hot vinyl seats that stick to your skin in the August prairie heat. They were sitting in the car in the bank drive-thru, her father talking to the clerk while she sucked on a green dum-dum. The blond-haired, blue-eyed six year old was antsy in the hot seat as later that day they were driving to her grandmother’s house for dinner which she looked forward to with great anticipation.
Rob, her father was a young man who smelled of sawdust and aftershave. As they pulled out of the bank and started down the highway home Jenny munched happily on the lollypop.
The heat was starting to become uncomfortable as she squirmed in the hot seat. “Dad, how much longer until we get to Grandma’s?”
“We aren’t going there until later tonight Jen.”
“Oh, Okay.” She sat there for a second, contemplating her green dum-dum, then turned to her father, “Dad, why does Grandma sound funny?”
“Well, she just sounds funny. Different. Not like the rest of us.”
“Oh, you mean her accent?” he chuckled, “She is not American like you and me, she came from
“Why did she move?” Jenny asked as she sucked her lollypop looking out into the prairie
“Because she met Grandpa during the war and moved here with him. He was in the Army and was stationed in
“Oh.” Jenny sat there, the Dum-Dum was now gone and she was chewing on the paper stick.
“Mutti, where is father?” Tillie asked. The three year old was sitting on the floor in the kitchen of the tiny quaint flat playing with wooden blocks. It was autumn of 1931 in
Jenny ran into the house and straight into her Grandfather’s arms. The house smelled of vegetables, spices, and paint from her Grandmother’s canvases.
“How’s my little girl?” her grandfather said in his thick
“Grandpa put me down! Put me down!” she laughed while flailing her arms. He obeyed and she went running to the kitchen to find her grandmother.
Bending up from the oven Tillie was just taking out a fresh loaf of bread; always baking enough for an army to eat when family came over to visit. She loved to have company and children in the house again. She was a short and portly woman in her early 60’s who loved to crochet shawls for her long shapeless but bright colored dresses. She always wore sandals with nylon stockings so her bright dusty rose nail polish would show through.
“Oooooh, there is my little Leibling,” she wraped her arms around her little granddaughter and held her tight. “Are you ready for supper? I cooked lots of good things! Dumplings, meatballs, and lots of good vegetables for you to eat!”
“And dessert?” Jenny asked suddenly very worried.
“Hmmmmmm, dessert? I don’t know if I cooked any – it gives you cavities and we wouldn’t want to mess up that pretty smile.”
“No dessert? But Grandma I brush everyday! See?” The six year old flashed the biggest smile she could.
Tillie smiled at her young granddaughter, “Ah, I see, I see. Well then, I suppose you can have a few of the crème puffs.”
Jenny’s eyes lit up with pure delight at the thought of her grandmother’s pastries. “After dinner can I help you wash the dishes grandma?”
The couple was so used after washing dishes by hand their whole lives that they never invested in a dishwasher. Jenny however loved the simpleness of washing dishes, the smell of soap and the feeling of the clean rag drying off the dishes. It was one of her favorite things to do when she went to visit her grandparents.
“Oh but of course! I couldn’t wash the dishes without my little dryer now could I?” Tillie chuckled at how such small tasks can make a child’s day. “Come, will you help me set dinner?”
It had been two nights now since her husband Franz had left. Since Otillie was born he had become distant, and now with even more so since he started going to rallies for the new Nazi party. It was just a year ago that the Nazi’s started to come into real power. Ever since they became the second most powerful party in
Now she had to start thinking about her daughter, how were they to manage without Franz to provide for them? Not that he did provide much before, but he did at least keep the food on the table. Without him she would have to go to work, which was more than difficult as the entire country was in a state of depression. How would she pay rent on the tiny flat?
Suddenly she was startled by a knock on the door. It was late and rarely visitors came at this time at night. She hoped the knock hadn’t woken Otillie. Half of her heart hoped it would be about Franz, while the more realistic side almost dreaded it.
“Mutti!” Marie exclaimed as she opened the door.
“Open up! Open up! I am getting wet out here!” Franziska exclaimed as she held a newspaper over her head to protect herself from the rain. Franziska was a woman in her mid-fifties. A well built woman, strong and independent. She knew how to take care of her self and her family and would fight with her last breath for their safety. Her long salt and peppered hair was braided and put up into a bun. She wore old dresses that were a decade out of style, but with the state of the economy she knew the little money she had would better serve for food and needles and thread to mend the clothes rather then make or buy new ones.
“Mutti, what are you doing coming out here so late, and by yourself?” Marie ushered her mother inside and quickly shut the door.
“Your brothers told me that your good for nothing husband has not been home for days. Where did he go this time? Any ideas? You’d had been better off marrying that nice baker that lived down the street but no – no you had to fall in love with a good for nothing ex-soldier who can barely provide for his family. But – I should not speak so of your child’s father. I thought you and my granddaughter might be hungry so I brought over a loaf of bread.” She took out a large dark loaf from under her jacket and set it upon the table. “It isn’t much and it might be a little stale but it is food and nourishment.”
Marie blushed. “I don’t think he is coming back home this time Mutti,” as she gazed at the floorboards.
“How do you know?”
“He has been gone two days, he has. . .changed. I can’t . . .I’m not . .” and Marie suddenly burst into tears. The first and only time she ever let her marriage ever turn to tears. Her frustration at the situation and the betrayal and abandonment by her husband, and her constant worry of her daughter’s wellbeing brimmed up and overflowed in tears for this one time.
“Come child, it will be alright,” Franziska cooed as she took her child’s head into her arms, “but you must be strong now. You have to think about your child. The world is changing, and we must learn to change with it.”
Marie lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder, wiping the tears away with the back of her hand and composing herself. “You’re right mutti, you’re right.”
“Of course I am right, I always am.” She smiled as she caressed her daughter’s cheek. Suddenly a drop of water landed on Franziska’s cheek. Then another. Startled she looked up, only to notice the ceiling was leaking. “But I can tell you this child; you are not staying in this dump. Come back your belongings and wrap up your child. We are leaving.”
“But Mutti. . .” Marie started to protest.
“But Mutti nothing! I will not have my grandchild catching her death of cold from this place. Let’s go.”
“Mom, you really out did yourself this time. That was a wonderful meal.” Rob said as Tillie gathered the dishes from the meal.
“Oh Robbie, you say that about all of my meals. Now why don’t you go help your father out in the yard while Jenny and I wash the dishes?”
“Yay!” Jenny exclaimed with a mouth full of crème puff.
“Sure thing mom, anything you say. Jen, you be good and help your Grandma clean up?”
“Of course dad.”
“Of course dad,” Tillie playfully mimicked. “She is the best dish dryer I’ve had in this house since you left.”
“Okay then, have fun and don’t make a mess.” Rob kissed both his daughter and mother on the cheek and then proceeded to leave the back porch of the house.
It was a small house in the mountains of
“Are you coming leibling?”
Jenny helped gather the last of the dishes and followed her grandmother into the kitchen. She handed the dishes to her grandmother who put them in the sink and then proceeded to put on her apron. Jenny got up on her special stool so that she could reach the dishes and got her special drying towel.
“Grandma, where are you from?”
“I am from here,” she replied and she started to draw the water for the dishes.
“No, daddy said you came from another country.”
“Oh yes, many many years ago I moved her from
“That’s right! Such a smart girl.” Tillie patted a soapy bubbled hand on top of Jenny’s head.
“Grandma!” Jenny giggled.
“Yes, it is near
“I asked you if you speak German. Do you?”
“Noooooo.” Jenny smiled as she started to dry the warm dishes.
“Ah, well someday I shall have to teach you.”
“Why did you move?”
“I met your Grandpa. He was in the army and stationed in
“Wow.” Jenny sat there drying intently, “Wasn’t it hard to leave your mom and dad?”
“Yes, it was hard to leave my mother. But my father left us when I was a little girl. I barely remember him.”
“So you didn’t have a daddy?” suddenly Jenny was very sad that her Grandma didn’t have a dad.
“No, but I had two Uncles who raised me like I was their little girl.”
“Was it hard to leave them behind in
Suddenly Tillie got very quite as she was washing the dishes. She was lost in thought. She saw much during the war, but very few things affected her still to this day as the memory of her Uncles.
“No, it wasn’t hard to leave them behind meine leibling.”
“Why not? If they were like your dad didn’t you miss them?”
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